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Archive for April, 2011

Negotiating Power in Planning Multicultural and Diversity Training Programs

“No one man should have all that power 
The clock's tickin', I just count the hours 
Stop trippin', I'm trippin' off the power” – Kanye West   


Kanye West, in his song ‘Power,’ describes the effects of having authority and control over a situation or person, and how one man’s access at full power can have detrimental results. The song suggests that power should be a collaborative process and  that decision making, when NOT founded in education, perspective, and diversity, can have harmful consequences for both those making the decisions and affected by the decisions.  

Power can arise out of organizational structure, politics, race, level of resources, rights, and manipulation.  Defined as the force that a person exerts on someone else to induce change or to affect their actions, behaviors, opinions, and values (Cervero & Wilson, 1994), power can have  positive or a negative change.

As we plan for and develop training that encourages leadership in a multicultural environment through knowledge, skill, and awareness (Connerly & Pederson, 2005), we must understand the influences of power in our decision making, as we hope to create change through our programs.  

Program planning is the fundamental process to develop, prepare for, and implement a formal event through the organization of resources to engage adults in the practice of teaching and learning. As a program planner of a multicultural training program, indeed, one has the power to equip professionals with cultural competency and multicultural development to be able communicate, interact, and lead across differences—

  • the power to gauge learner, organization, and external interests;
  • the power to make decisions on characteristics of the program;
  • the power to change lives;
  • and the power to work (or not work) collaboratively.

Power, when in the wrong hands, can create multicultural programs that are not effective, do not provide for life-long transfer of learning, and experiences that only further perpetuate cultural stereotypes and faultlines.

How can program planners avoid ‘tripping’ off of power?  

Effective program planning of multicultural and training programs  involves the negotiation of power. While there are many things that a program planner must do to implement a successful program, the most important actions are to:

  1. Make decision making a collaborative process.

Program planners must decide whose interests matter in developing a program and give voice and representation to those interests. Planners must make decisions about who sits at the table in the planning process, why they sit at the table, and who they represent at the planning table (Cervero & Wilson, 1994). Choose a diverse group to be apart of the planning  process to enhance leaders’ multicultural development.

      2. Establish objectives for multicultural development and use appropriate training techniques.

Connerly and Pederson (2005) suggests that “multicultural development is presumed to proceed from an awareness of attitudes, opinions, and assumptions to knowledge of facts and information to skill in taking the appropriate action” (pp. 125).  Program planning entails the procedure of transforming clear objectives to an engaging experience for learners, using design techniques to stimulate awareness, impart knowledge, and develop skill.  Using the Tylerian Rationale may prove effective.

      3. And finally, use evaluation.

  Often times the most underutilized and neglected step of program  planning, evaluation is key in negotiating power. The purpose of evaluation is to determine whether or not the training achieved the desired objective. Through evaluation, program planners can assess the effectiveness of their current programs and use feedback to create socially responsive programs that better meets the learners needs. Consider using the Kirkpatrick model.

What other suggestions would you consider to negotiate power in planning multicultural and diversity training programs?


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